For most mothers-to-be, it's not a complete surprise when labour pains begin. Nine months of anticipation, a swelling belly and all sorts of cramps, aches and pains have accompanied their journey towards being a parent. But how do you know that labour has actually begun, and the final stage of your journey is nearly over?
We take a look at a few telltale signs.
Diarrhoea or frequent emptying of the bowels
The body prepares itself for birth by making itself as empty as possible beforehand. Frequent emptying of the bowels may well indicate that you will shortly be in labour.
Feeling or being sick
On the same principle as the bowels being emptied, some women about to give birth actually throw up.
Your waters breaking
Some women experience their waters breaking all at once, and for many others it is a long, slow trickle (the baby's head often blocks a "deluge" from occurring). 15 percent or thereabouts of women experience their waters breaking before labour commences the vast majority, however, will already have started their deliveries by the time this happens.
The nesting instinct
It's not uncommon for mothers-to-be to frantically cook and clean, making sure the house is ready for the new arrival.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are "practice" contractions that some women experience some time prior to going into labour. These may get increasingly painful.
The bloody show
No, not repeats on TV, but the breaking of capillaries around the cervix as it begins to dilate, the bloody show often occurs about a day before you go into labour-proper. Prior to this you might also find that your vaginal discharge changes, or that the mucus plug that seals the cervix becomes dislodged.
The baby's head being engaged
Between two weeks and one month before birth, the baby will often descend into the pelvic area and will sit lower down.
Article prepared by Jennie Blythe, August 1, 2005